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While there is no official statement yet, the pheasant season that closed on Sunday January 3rd, 2016 looks like it was a solid, if not successful, season.

Here is a look at the highs and lows of the recent pheasant hunting season.

As the season started, brood counts found that there was an estimated 42% increase in the number of birds in the field. This figure would indicate that populations had returned to the level they were at in 2011. During that season, hunters harvested approximately 1.56 million pheasants.

During last year’s season, hunters only harvested 1.23 million birds. Therefore, many hunting experts in the area are expecting that the Game, Fish and Parks Department officials will release news of an increase when the true numbers are announced in April or May.

Pheasant hunting also brings in a significant amount of income to the state and neighboring counties like Brown. During 2014, the sport netted the state $154.5 million. The vast majority of this was made by non-resident hunters.

However, in 2010, hunters spent approximately $231 million in South Dakota and $17 million in Brown County. It is highly unlikely that this spending will be realized this year.

But to encourage a return to days gone by, Pheasant Forever opened a regional headquarters in Brookings, South Dakota, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard created a statewide pheasant taskforce in 2013 that reported back. South Dakota is fighting back to increase the pheasant population.

Another creation was the Aberdeen Pheasant Coalition. They pay incentives to landowners in Brown County to enroll their land in CRP and other walk-in hunting programs.

But CRP lands are dropping fast. In 2007, South Dakota had 1.5 million acres enrolled in CRP. In 2014, this had fallen by more than half. At the same time, commercialized pheasant hunting is endangering the sport. Many landowners are questioning whether they should offer free hunting access when others don’t.

Finally, the weather, while good in some of the recent years, is still a concern as it is closely linked to the survival of pheasants over the winter.

What is your opinion on the past pheasant hunting season? What are your hopes for the future?

Let us know in the comments below.

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